Do you support People or Platforms?

As I sit here in my hotel room an hour away from starting my official Apple Distinguished Educators (ADE) training this question keeps popping into my head.

Do you support People or Platforms?

Flickr ID: Wader

It’s an interesting question…that I continue to reflect on. We all have strengths and weaknesses in the computer programs/platforms that we know. But do we some time support the platform rather than the people?

Is there a difference?

Can you support people without supporting a platform?

Just some questions that are running through my head as I start my 5 day training on everything Apple.

9 Comments

  1. We should support people not platforms. I used to think students should adapt to the platform the school established. Then back in November, during a break between sessions at TEDxEDU.cn, Julie Lindsay changed my thinking. She put two ideas into my head. That a one-to-one laptop program should allow students to use their preferred computers not the school’s. And the design of the one-to-one laptop program should be driven by the students’ needs not the tech department’s. Those were my best take-aways from TEDxEDU.com. Now my IT manager and I are talking about ways we can support students first and let the platform follow.

    • I agree…and schools find ways to put the platform over people.

      – They won’t have the same software
      – We’ll have to support multiple machines/platforms

      They are legit concerns and I get that. I wonder how many schools have students being the main point on their adoption teams rather than teachers and administrators?

      • You nailed it. Those are the big issues/obstacles we are discussing. Regarding the software, we’re looking at a one-to-one program based on the idea that students bring the hardware, we bring the software. They come to school with the laptop of their choice and we install in it our standard suite of software. To make this work efficiently, we’re aiming to support one make of a Windows-based laptop and MacBooks, because supporting multiple machines would be too inefficient in many ways. At least that’s where we are now.

        I like this approach because it shifts our financial load away from hardware and to software. That’s a good move because hardware doesn’t improve learning software does. And it removes the problem that Tim mentioned — no diversity. A kid in a classroom with different computers customized for different work flows can compare and see the advantages and drawbacks of different set ups. That kind of classroom facilitates curiosity and stimulates decision making about the best tools for problem solving and creativity. But it can get messy, inefficient. Maybe so much so that it isn’t worth it. A simple one-platform environment handed to the students would allow everyone to just focus on their core subject areas. I see the benefit of that too.

        Is this you-bring-the-hardware, we-bring-the-software idea impractical or just crazy?

        • An interesting approach and I’ll be watching as you role it out. I like giving students the choice of platform. I completely understand where schools are coming from in supporting dual platforms at schools. It’s hard, it’s costly, and can be frustrating. But if you have common software on all machines, the OS really doesn’t matter.

  2. I believe people over platforms. Although I applaud the work that companies such as Apple and Google (and others) do for education (such as the Apple Distinguished Educator and Google Certified Teacher programs) I am always cognizant of the fact that their bottom line is the bottom line. Apple wants people to use Apple; Google wants people to use Google, even when the platform is not necessarily the best for a specific educational need. And that’s OK – that’s their job. Ours as educators is to pick the best for our students.

    • I agree and how do we help spread that message? Our job is to know what tools to pick, what best fits in the curriculum. I, like you, applaud Apple and Google and what I was trying to start with Wetpaint.com and their wiki program before they shut it down. Give educators the training, and allow them to choose the right tool for the job.

      Is it OK for teachers to choose a school they are going to teach at based on platform?

      Is it OK for parents/students to choose a school they will attend based on platform?

      I worry when I hear people say we HAVE to be this, or we HAVE to use that. I worry we start to put blinders on based on platform rather than student need.

  3. Sometimes, when the Open Source folks are beating me on the head, I think that my support of Apple in the classroom is a doomed strategy, especially in a school district that thinks “low bid is the go bid.”
    And, I try my best to see the advantages of Windows or Linux.

    But…

    It is not as easy as saying this platform is better than that platform.
    What happens is that schools make the choices for kids, so kids don’t get to see the advantages of one platform over another. In a school of all PCs, how can a kid experience iMovie, or Garageband, or iPhoto over Windows Movie Maker or Photostory? In an all PC or all Mac or all linux environment, there is no place to compare.

    Yes, I know we are SUPPOSED to just be teaching a process, how to use product to create content, but if students are not given the choice, then how are they supposed to be able to make informed decisions?
    And how do you really say that Kinder students should be able to make a choice?

    I have been beating my head against a wall for years about allowing Macs into my district, which decided that cheap is better a few years back.

    Tim

  4. Perhaps the days of worrying about a platform are coming to an end. As more and more applications are available online and we sign up for external applications and resources for our students perhaps the days of platform preference are numbered. This does assume that all the students are using the same applications. If students encounter problems on a PC with a Mac trained teacher who is showing them how to use imovie, what then?

    Of course online applications will depend on a school having fast enough infrastructure and net access to do this.

    If a school allows an integrated platform approach perhaps there needs to be a different view of the responsibility of the computers in the school. As computers become more stable it may be down to application knowledge and some machine maintenance. Maybe that can be placed on the students/parents more rather than a school’s IT department. Student groups could be set up to support all systems. If the expectation comes back to the school to be able to fix problems, then it may come down to the training the IT staff have. The school has to also decide on their teachers, the skills they have that they may look for when hiring or that they give them through training.

    A technically competent person looks at different computers and doesn’t worry too much about all of the different applications they are using. A teacher with a small amount of computer ability would look at the same situation differently. They should also be catered for.

    • I believe that as cloud computing continues to improve and as we get faster more reliable cloud connections via cell phones and WiFi that it will become the common platform. The web browser is the common software on all devices today. Whether cell, iPad, laptop, or desktop. It goes across devices big and small. I’m excited to see where the cloud takes us.

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